Rogers parish taking a new approach to stewardship

Gloria Morse (left), Judene Kuszak, Father Shaun Wesley, Betsy McNeil and Msgr. Richard Oswald plan for the bilingual magazine the parish is creating as part of the Community & Discipleship program.
Gloria Morse (left), Judene Kuszak, Father Shaun Wesley, Betsy McNeil and Msgr. Richard Oswald plan for the bilingual magazine the parish is creating as part of the Community & Discipleship program.

ROGERS — A new program that gives a whole new meaning to the word “stewardship” is beginning to take shape at St.Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers.
“Community & Discipleship” has been adopted by the parish as a way to focus parishioners on the spirituality and practice of stewardship.
Pastor Msgr. Richard Oswald and several staff members recently attended the Monsignor McGread Stewardship Conference in Wichita, Kan., to learn more about the program.
“The one name that is associated with this all over the country is Msgr. (Thomas) McGread,” Msgr. Oswald said. “Even though he is now retired, he spoke to the conference and told us, ’When we use the word stewardship, the first thing we think about is money.’ But McGread said that stewardship is not about money. It is about hospitality, prayer, formation and service.”
Msgr. McGread’s parish for 31 years, St. Francis of Assisi Church, has met with phenomenal success since incorporating this program in the 1960s based on the four pillars of stewardship: hospitality, prayer, formation and service.
As a result of this success the parish has been honored nationwide. The conference is offered to other parishes across the country several times a year at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita.
Jacque Clupny, a former parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi now living in Rogers, said the program works on a practical level.
“It was time, talent and treasure,” she said. “If you don’t have treasure, you give of your time and talent. I was a stay-at-home mom. I volunteered for whatever was needed at the church and school. I volunteered in the lunchroom; I was a homeroom mother. You do it because that is what we are called to do in our community.”
St.Vincent de Paul parish manager, Judene Kuszak, said, “First of all, we are really focusing on the four pillars that are a part of stewardship. They exist in our parish already, but we want to build on them. Our goal for the Community & Discipleship program is to build on these pillars one on top of the other to make our community better and stronger as one unit. It is all about building up our community and making our community — even though it is very large — seem very personable, very much one on one.”
St. Vincent de Paul Church is the second largest parish in the state with 7,962 registered Catholics.
Kuszak believes by making it more personable the parishioners will be empowered to go out and talk to other people and become “real disciples.”
“As people realize and experience that they are part of a faith community and really connect to their parish, then they want to pray with people they share their faith with, they learn more about their faith and how to live it and that leads to service,” Msgr. Oswald said.
The new program currently has two paid coordinators — Betsy McNeil and Gloria Morse. Morse’s previous position was Hispanic liaison for the parish office. According to Morse, the goal of the new program is to be one community — the Anglo community, the Hispanic community and the Vietnamese community.
“I think this program will help them to integrate into the community with the Anglo members. I think within the Hispanic community we already have those four pillars active,” Morse said.
McNeil stressed the importance of communication in this new undertaking. A new paid communication director, Dave Turner, is in place to handle publicity for the program.
“We did a mailing for our survey to 3,100 families in the parish in both English and Spanish. Now we are addressing the results of this survey in coming weeks with new changes in the bulletin that includes a four-page insert,” McNeil said. “Not only have we asked them for feedback, but also what we are going to do with this feedback. We are going to put it right out there on the table.”
After the analysis of the survey, the next step will be the creation of a parish mission statement that would outline the goals and objectives of the program and will serve as a guideline to weigh the success of the ministries.
“Stewardship is not about money and percentages. It is about trying to build the faith life of the people here in the parish,” Msgr. Oswald said.
Pointing out the increased size of the parish along with the changing demographics, Msgr. Oswald said, “We do live in a part of the state where people are moving in from all parts of the country and the world. I think it is very important for us to do everything we can to make them feel they really do belong and have some ownership of this parish … that they are ready to invest themselves into the life of the parish. We need to make an extra effort to reach out to help that happen.”
Plans are in the works now to create a parish magazine for the Community & Discipleship program, which will provide an important tool for the communication effort. The four-color glossy bilingual magazine will be mailed to every registered household in the parish. Father Shawn Wesley, associate pastor, will be the editor.
According to Msgr. Oswald, the magazine will provide exciting possibilities in communicating with parishioners.
In the survey results, parishioners specified two important needs in the church community. They wanted more opportunities to learn about their Catholic faith and they wanted more opportunities to gather in a social setting — from small groups to large parish activities.
Another innovative method of communication will be available in the church’s gathering space beginning in March.
“We are going to have an informational kiosk with three screens. It will have a DVD running with perhaps a visual tour of the parish, a visual tour of our ministries or about upcoming events,” McNeil said.
McNeil said the program comes down to evangelization.
“We are grateful to be here at St.Vincent de Paul at this time,” she said. “We have our building built, we have people in place and Monsignor has committed and devoted a significant amount of our resources, our time, our efforts, our commitment to this way of life. Community & Discipleship has already begun to spread beyond the grounds of our campus here in that we have members who are out in the community, actually doing things with and for the community of Rogers as part of our evangelization in a more concerted effort.”

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